She tiptoed to the bedroom door and cracked it open a little. Light from the corridor streamed in. The hinges creaked as she pushed the door open further and she froze, her left hand braced against the door frame and her right on the handle.
She looked over her shoulder to the figure lying in bed. He did not stir.
She held the door in place, driving a slipper under it as a wedge, then let out a ragged breath.
Still on tiptoes she slid through the opening out of the room. She walked to the end of the short corridor and let herself into the other bedroom, thankful for the foresight to leave her toiletries and a change of clothes in the spare bedroom the night before.
She could have turned on the light and got ready in the bedroom they shared with its adjoining bathroom, but yesterday had been an unusually long day for him and she did not want to disturb him unnecessarily. Besides, she did not want to explain herself to him this morning; it was too early for that.
Bathed and dressed, she realised her car key was in the room where he slept. She took of her shoes and, again walking on tiptoes, slid into the room.
The muted light coming in through the doorway was enough for her to make her way to the dresser where they always left the car key.
She picked it up and was on her way out of the room when a part of her gown caught on a screw which was sticking out from the door frame.
The ripping sound as the fabric tore was loud in the predawn quiet.
“Oh shit!” She swore under her breath.
She heard the sheets rustle, and then a sleep thickened voice asked.
“Yes dear, this stupid nail just tore my dress.”
She heard some more rustling and then the soft pad-pad of bare feet on the thick carpet as he made his way across the room to where she still stood examining the damage to her dress.
A switch clicked and bright light flooded the room.
“Let me see.” He was standing next to her, wearing only boxer shorts.
“You’ll have to change into something else,” he said after examining the jagged tear. “We can’t have you wearing that out looking like there’s nobody in the house you came out from.” This part was said with a smile.
She opened the wardrobe and rifled through the clothes hanging there.
“What time is it by the way?” He asked her as he walked back to the bed.
“It’s early. Get some more rest.”
“What time is it? He reached for his phone which was on the floor next to the bed. “Where are you going at 4:13am?”
“Just want to run some errands, that’s all.” There was a forced casualness to her voice.
“Errands? At this time of the morning? Where to? Or should I ask who for?”
“The head pastor’s son is coming in from the UK today and I have to be at the airport to meet his flight.” There was a slight tremble in her voice, and she hated him for doing that to her. She was a grown woman for God’s sake. Involuntarily she stiffened her back.
He saw her chin lift a bit and knew she was daring him to ask her not to go.
They had had this same fight in the past.
She belonged to the Protocol Unit of her church. She was head of the unit, and so if anything went wrong, she was the one in the line of fire.
Once, she had entrusted some members of her unit with the special assignment of receiving the head pastor on his return from one of his numerous trips abroad spreading the word. No one had been there when his flight touched down – the flight arrived earlier than scheduled. That day the pastor had called her and given her the talking to of her life. She would not like a repeat.
The first time she took the boy to the airport, she had not returned to the house till almost midnight and was too exhausted to eat or shower; dinner which he cooked because she had forgotten to prepare something before heading to the airport. She just crawled into bed and was out like a light. He had sat up in bed most of that night and wondered if any shepherd had the right to demand this of their flock.
When he did not say anything to her, she relaxed. She took out her phone and dialled a number.
“Hello? Hi Kate, how are you? Hope I did not wake you up… No, everything’s okay… Yes, he’s here. Look, I’ll be coming in late today… No, just a minor family emergency… Yes… Okay… Tell George please… Alright then… See you at work.”
Twice before she had had to call in sick at work just so she could meet and receive different members of the pastor’s travelling household.
“I am sure your pastor must be proud of you,” he had told her then. “Lying and cheating your employers, sneaking about your own house in order to get God’s work done.”
His sarcasm was not lost on her.
“At least one of us does God’s work.” She retorted. “One of us pays their tithe and observes the fasts, and says their prayers. One of us maintains a relationship with God.”
“Where is the pastor at this moment? Asleep in his bed? Out of the country?” He asked. “Does he not have family members who could meet this child at the airport? How old is this child anyway?”
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” He bellowed.
“Keep your voice down, you’ll wake the neighbours.”
“Dude is eighteen and his dad has you babying him like this? I don’t know why I thought he was ten or eleven.”
“Well, pastor wants to be sure he is looked after till he boards his flight.” She spoke as if to an exceptionally slow child.
“And who is looking after your business while you are handling pastor’s? Ehn, tell me, who? When will it be your turn to go to the UK?”
She looked at him, her face a mask of fury.
“Surely, there must be a unit assigned to stay with this child while he’s in school. Or you do not rate that high?”
“Now you are sounding ignorant. I see the devil wants to use you this morning. Tell him you did not see me, ehn? I will pray for you, you this man. I will pray for you!” She reached in the wardrobe and pulled out a pair of jeans. She yanked a shirt off a hanger and stormed out of the room. She pulled the door hard after her, but it did not budge because the slipper jammed underneath it kept it in place.
The sleep gone from his eyes, he made to follow her, but at the door he stopped. He knew if he crossed the threshold, they may never be able to find their way back; there would be no uncrossing it. Suddenly feeling drained, he returned to the bed where he sat for a long time with his head in his hands. That was where he was sitting when he heard the front door slam shut. He listened for the start of the car engine. With a loud rev and squealing tyres, she drove out of the garage and onto the street. A dog started to bark in the distance.
“Dear God,” he prayed, “please keep her safe. Amen.”
PS: Two weeks ago a lady wrote an open letter to the pastor of her church saying how she was abused by him.
For days I followed our reactions to her letter and, to be honest, none surprised me; I am human, and I am Nigerian.
My concern is not so much what the letter said about the lady or her pastor, my concern is what the letter says about us.
We live in a part of the world where emotions rule us more than common sense, fanaticism over logic.
“My priest wants to follow me on Instagram…”
“My pastor wants to teach me a level of grace…”
We take a human being like ourselves, preacher or politician, it makes no matter, and place them on a pedestal so high we forget they are first and foremost, human. And sadly sometimes, they forget too.
I believe that if we stopped to think about what is right, about what is important, we will find that the answers dwells within us.